How to Make Profitable Connections at a Conference

Even though technology allows us to connect across the miles and conduct business without meeting face-to-face, there is a lot to be said for in-person meetings. In fact, as technology disconnects more and more, the idea of looking a prospective client or business partner in the eye is becoming more attractive

One way to connect with others is by attending trade shows and conferences. I’ve found great value in attending conferences for my business. If you hope to turn the (tax-deductible) cost of attending a conference into a net profit, here are some ideas for making your mark:

bring swag

Everyone loves swag. I regularly attend FinCon and Podcast Movement, and many companies come with unique branded swag to pass out on the expo floor. Identify a conference or trade show where prospective partners and clients can be found. Then, rent a booth and bring branded swag.

There are many companies that can help you create swag with your company logo. Choosing something unique and useful is more likely to be remembered. Plus, there is a good chance attendees will share it on their social networks, increasing your reach and boosting your brand’s visibility.

sponsor events

Many trade shows and conferences include different events, including awards shows, breakfasts, lunches, and keynotes. If you attend a conference, you can get your name in front of more people and earn a few gratitude points (and more social media mentions!) when you are involved at these conferences.

Every year at FinCon I help plan The Plutus Awards, which draws many of the conference attendees. Many of them live tweet the Awards ceremony and even record and rebroadcast it. It’s a fun event and it’s a good way for partners to gain the undivided attention of influential financial bloggers.

Look for different opportunities to sponsor events at a conference. Chances are you’ll be able to get extra mentions and visibility, connect with high-quality prospects, and generate good will.

wine and dine influential attendees

I’m not including this one just because I like to be wined and dined (although that’s fun). If you can identify influential attendees, business partners, or clients, invite them to meet with you. Take a prospective client to lunch. At FinCon, Fidelity held a very nice breakfast for women financial journalists. They provided a hashtag for the event and discussed issues of importance to us. More than 50 women were tweeting and posting images to Instagram and Facebook, mentioning the breakfast, the issues, and Fidelity’s part.

You don’t have to hold a big event, but it can make sense to set up meetings with those you are most interested in working with, since you’re all at the conference anyway.

general networking

Finally, don’t forget about general networking. Attend the networking opportunities offered at the trade show or conference. Be ready with business cards, an elevator pitch, and your winning personality. Get to know people and make it a point to show that you are a person with interest, and that you can be a valuable contact.

I met my business partner at a conference. We had networked a little bit online ahead of time, but when we met in person, we saw that there could be a benefit to partnering. But it took that extra connection in person to put things in motion.

Go to your next trade show or conference with a plan to connect and network–and maybe even wow the attendees to get their attention–and you’ll make back the cost of your attendance.